So we've achieved immortality -- control breeding?

So our alien benefactors have seen fit to give us immortality. I mean, you can die by getting shot, drowning, etc still, but natural every-day wear and tear (be that of the DNA or organs) won’t kill you. For hypothetical’s sake, they also have technology that make us incredibly resistant to disease and can cure most of them (though a couple will slip through and kill maybe 10-20 people every decade or so). Is it right for them to switch on a device that takes away our ability to breed?

A Concerned Citizen

Okayokay, I mostly did the nonsense with the aliens for the Half-Life 2 reference. But even without the scenario, let’s say medical science has given us functional immortality as described above. We’ll say that, to be moral, the governments have deemed fit to let people who are tired of living forever to commit suicide (with a quick mental checkup to make sure it’s not just somebody being overdramatic and they logically want to stop). In addition, people in a vegetative state are euthanized more often (or at least, after some reasonable number of years the hospitals refuse to treat them anymore). Is it moral, in this case, to CONTROL breeding? That is, unless the population has declined x%, you cannot legally have a child?.

We’ll assume that we’re not MONSTERS here, if people have surprise octuplets when breeding is legal but limited we’re not going to go and off 7 of them or anything. I’m not going to outline the “hows” of controlling breeding. Everything from mandatory birth control, mandatory abortion during prohibited periods, to the magical no baby radio tower I mentioned in the sci-fi scenario are possible, though in your answer you should probably mention what methods you’re okay/not okay with.

Don’t just kneejerk this though, while it fundamentally comes down to a resources question, keep in mind things like grade school teachers by profession having to have to get a new job for the off years (and all the other side effects that come with not having a body of children around for years on end).

In my opinion… yes, it needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like China’s one child policy or anything like that. I don’t support any zero population growth stuff (well, I support somebody’s decision to consciously NOT contribute to population growth, but no regulation or anything) in the modern, non-hypothetical world. There’s no gotcha here. I just think there’s no real way to do it without controlling breeding. Maybe if get really, really good at colonizing other planets we can lift the restrictions. It’s certainly a better option than having a multiplying population that you have to cull (or just let starve itself to death) now and then when it’s clear it’s become way too big. The strain on resources would just be too immense. Either way, I don’t think it would be TOO terrible, after all, you DO live forever, so you have plenty of time to wait for the correct opportunity if you want kids. I’m also sure that between automobile accidents, suicides, wars, mafia hits etc you’ll probably have an opportunity every decade or so (maybe every couple decades).

I know it hits the kneejerk brigade but I have always been a proponent of:
No kids prior to the age of 25, you need a solid job to afford one.
Replacement breeding - 1 person 1 kid [so a couple married or not would get 2 kids, 1 per parent. No extras unless one dies.
License required - you have to pass a parenting class and psych eval before breeding.

How do you propose to deal with the kids born of younger kids ? Are we talking yanking the kids away and putting them up for adoption ? KCl I.V. post-partum ? What ?

You missed where I mentioned you need a license to have kids and pass a class, and that there existed safe sex, implying universal birth control until you managed to get licensed and were over 25.

And yes I realize that in the current real world there are lots of good under 25 unemployed uneducated parents, but there are some spectacularly abusive ones as well. I would love to remove the abuse factors of miseducation, uneducation, frustration and anger management issues and anything else that can make an abusive home. How many stories do we need of feckless parents doing stupid shit because they didn’t know any better, that did shit because they got angry or frustrated because of lack of resources, that simply lack impulse control or were substance abuse victims.

The trouble with “replacement breeding”–that is, each person can have one child and therefore two people can have two children–is that with no more aging and disease, people don’t die fast enough.

For a stable population you need one birth for every death. But if people can have one child at 25, then that child can have a child at 25, then that child can have a child at 25, then that child can have a child at 25, and so on, we have massive population growth even though each person has only one child. Chidren keep getting born, but no one ever dies.

The only way to make this work not that you are guaranteed the right to have one child, but that you are only allowed a child if your parent is dead.

Of course, why exactly do we want the population to be stable? Why don’t we want to outlaw breeding entirely until the world population is down to a particular target, much lower than 7 billion? Or perhaps in our new techno-utopia 100 billion unaging people can live stacked up in high-rise luxury apartments on Baffin Island while the rest of the planet is turned into a nature reserve, and everyone can have as many kids as they like.

The elves had this problem.

Its not quite as bad as it sounds. If each person is allowed one kid and we assume it is the result of the combining the genes of two people it reaches a limit. 2 people can have one kid. Two of those kids can have a kid (but that grandkid is from 4 grandparents). Two of those grandkids can have a kid but it is from 8 great grandparents.

Your population will continue to increase, but it will reach a limit (I think). If we are still victim to rare diseases and actual accidents it would IMO most very likely reach a limit that isn’t as bad as one would think at first. Off the top of my head I don’t know what that is.

If you allow each person to have a kid all to themselves you are much more screwed.

OK. But how did they deal with the issue?

I imagine the issue will take care of itself. The birth rate is already dropping pretty fast in the developed world, i.e., Japan, Western Europe, the US, etc… I imagine, assuming technology gets us to this point, as Ray Kurzweil believes will happen in the next 20-30 years, that the trend will simply continue. The longer people live, and the healthier/safer they are, the less they will want to have kids. 80 years ago 10-12 kids per family was common in the US in rural areas. It’s dropped to 2-3 kids per family in those same areas today, and is still dropping. Why wouldn’t that trend continue naturally?

I think lots of reasons.

part of the reason for the drop is fertility. Presumably if you don’t age, fertility will be “ok” and you can continue to have kids.

another part is resources - as in, I can’t afford more than one kid. Well if you didn’t age, you could become a “serial parent” if you wanted - one kid every 22 years or so.

With no aging, (even with very low birthrates) it would be very easy to imagine a population that grows by 50-75% every 25 years. Can you imagine, by 2050, we reach 14 billion, 2080 - its 28 billion etc etc.

Its a lot of fun to have kids - so I don’t have a solution.

Do you HAVE kids? ROFL

Seriously, though, unless you can afford a nanny, and/or have really good free childcare, having kids, especially having several young ones at home simultaneously, is…not easy.

But that’s beside my point.

My thought is that people will simply find other things to do, and keep postponing it. Why do you think there’s such a rush to get married and have kids for women in their early 30s in the USA? Because of the ticking biological clock. Assuming that stopping aging also means that you can reproduce at any age, what would be the rush to have kids? You can postpone it to age 50, or 80, or 200, or 500, etc…

You might have a few religious types who would still have a lot, but I imagine that religion is going to take a big hit if technology can provide real immortality instead of the promise of life after death.

I’ve considered this problem many times. The important, and presumably obvious, fact is that the birth rate must equal the death rate, otherwise you have either an expanding or a contacting population.

In a population of immortals the death rate could be zero, although in practice it probably won’t be. Immortals might volunteer to die for various reasons, not all of them negative; after a long, happy and fulfilled life, an immortal human might decide it was time to make room for someone else.

If the death rate is zero and the birth rate is not, then the population would increase, however slowly; eventually the planet would reach its carrying capacity (although that might, in theory be very high). In due course the Solar System would also be filled, and population pressure could only be relieved by interstellar migration, a process which is limited by the available energy and by the speed of light. Eventually all available energy would be dedicated to powering the expansion wavefront, leaving only a bare minimum to supply the needs of the vast mass of humanity.

Obviously this is not an ideal situation. If and when science finds some sort of immortality technology (something that may well happen in the next thousand years or so) then population management will become a very important topic.

Any birth will need to be balanced by a voluntary (or accidental and irrevocable) death, or by emigration to another world. If, in the long run, the birth/death rate is not balanced in this way the population will inevitably increase or decrease, eventually leading to extinction or unchecked expansion.

You do realize that teenagers are forever going to fuck like ferrets ? And that, birth control or no, safe sex or no, breeding license or no, some of these randy little peckers are going to wind up making some pretty little princess preggers. It’s what happens. It’s what has happened since forever, and it’s what will keep on happening.
We can probably reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy to a point, but still. Randy little fucks, with a not-fully-developed consequentialist part of the brain, filled with hormones and barely understood impulses. And the profound certitude that adults can go sit on it and rotate with their rules, maaan, 'cause they just don’t understand. That’s not going to change either.

So, once again, how do you propose to deal with the lovechildren ?

As I understand it, they just moped a lot.

I’d assume in this scenario there’s “something in the water” that makes you sterile, and you get the antidote when you get your license. Hence the teenagers can be teenagers without having kids.

Since the OP didn’t specify mental heath or maturity with the physical health, or an increase in overall IQ or EQ, humans will go mad from overcrowding, as well as the horrible boredom that comes with very long life. Murder rates will rise, and people will sport-hunt each other. Eventually, the population will come down again.

I read that as “It’s a lot of fun to make kids”, myself.

I agree with al27052; I do believe it will continue to drop. The simple fact is that increasing wealth and standard of living is well correlated with lower birth rates right now, so at the least we can say while countries are rising towards, say, a German standard of living, their birth rates will in general fall.

After that, I project the pattern will continue. The big change within the next century or two will be simulations of sex indistinguishable (but better) than reality. Take that particular need out of the equation and far fewer people will have children or even hook up in the first place.

Living long now is boring, because your ability to change yourself and learn new skills deteriorates over time. With a forever young mind and body you could try your hand at being a doctor, then an athlete, then a pianist etc.
Long term, we don’t know what might happen to a non-ageing brain. It can’t have infinite capacity, so over centuries little might remain of the original person.

This seems infinitely sad. Technology already isolates people from each other so much; this will make life even lonelier.

A forever young mind and body would also lead to more risky behavior, more drug use, alcoholism, etc.

The physiology of the brain does change according to the way one uses it; rewiring is possible even in short lifetimes. Over extended lifetimes we could go through many changes. If learning is still possible, in the most optimistic scenario, people would eventually gravitate towards learning compassion and becoming enlightened.

But, you know, your friends and family would continually remind you of who you used to be, and resist letting you change.

Also, a virtually eternal life of poverty or hardship, of limited intelligence or opportunity, would be no gift. What would happen in these populations?

I should clarify what I meant. I think sex is a key driver for why many people hook up. But for those people that want to have relationships, the existence of sexmotrons won’t stop them (that said, I wonder if women in particular might find fantasy companions preferable to the real thing…).

I don’t think that follows; I meant young as in physiological characteristics rather than inexperience.
If you’re talking about the long-term scenario I mentioned of the brain possibly renewing over time, we don’t know what form that may take e.g. episodic memory might continually be renewed while semantic memory might be continually consolidated and abstracted.

It does change, but the rate of change plummets relatively early in our lifespan.

And I’m saying that as an old dog who has learned new tricks: it takes significantly more conscious effort to learn new skills than in my youth.
And I have to accept that there are certain things that my brain is now too inflexible to master.

The Universe is fairly big. It can handle an expanding human population for a while without being overcrowded. Give incentives to move to the off-planet colonies.